Thursday, 9 June 2011

By way of a letter to a fellow artist on the subject of the cadaverous nature of HD images

"Hi - glad you got back to me. Just to give you a context, I started using video in 1976 when we actually cut the tape with a razor blade then used sticky tape to join it - the resulting edit was like an explosion as it went past the heads and visually the image fell all over the place....

But then over the years as each new development happened things improved. One of my first art pieces was what we now call glitch art as I really liked the mess-upds of the medium - in fact video always offered surprises. All my friends became teachers because we were before the YBA and their use of video - we were doing what people like Gillian Wearing did - but the time was too early. Education or industry offered the only employment. So I decided that I needed to know the medium - like a 14th century painter I wanted to mix my own paints. That meant for me joining the industry, so with one hand I earned money, and threw it away making art with the other. Now as the industry is full of too many people the best place came up as a research fellow in education in my long-time interest of HD which I first came across in its analog form in 1992...

In some ways I agree with you but then I guess I have a whole history invested in the fact that the stuff actually works and gets better - however, that doesn't blind me. I'd learned to bring life to the video image often imitating film people who heated up the developer a few degrees so that it made material changes to the way the film looked. At the moment the cadaverous nature of data cinematography is because everyone leaves their footage till post to cast a thin patina of colour on top of the image rather than 'heating up the data' and interfering in the process and perhaps breathing life into the corpse.

In fact in 4 years of making HD work I've only managed to bring HD to life a few times as it's a fluttering technology that often goes flat-line on you.You get cast as Dr Frankenstein trying to bring the monster to life. Also the definition of the term HD is a problem. For me it's an industrial and therefore political term, now redundant. Sony needed to defeat Kodak or at least marginalise their photo-chemical Empire, which they're now done. But HD to me is tv driven - even being 16-9 is a reference to the buried desires of all the people that used to shoot 4:3 because glass vacuum technology could only go so big and electron guns with magnets switching them on and off started creating a whiplash effect over a certain size - so as 16:9 is an extrapolation of 4:3 then even the super hi vision 8K system is a complete remediation of an earlier technology - personally I haven't shot HD 16:9 for 3 or 4 years now. I always set to 2:1 and then project to the same aspect - but in my next project I'm turning the camera sideways and projecting 9:16 and a variant will be 1:1.

On the subject of remediation - I'm always wary of letting analog/digital and HD remediate what I now call Data cinematography or data imaging because the first three have nothing to do with the last which has more in common with telematics, haptics, mapping of 3D space and all the digital technologies that have been co-opted by pervasive media studies. I think of data imaging as being capable of being an image but also being a lot more. Kinnect spits out infra red pulses from the chip then receives them back again at different rates - like sonar - and maps the environment. It's a kind of image, but shows a little crack in the wall which when it comes down will describe a landscape we know is there but only guess at the content which is : the digital (or post-digital as it's now being called).

And on that note, in some ways data imaging is not really about the data. HD was, but what comes next is a window on a new landscape, a trojan horse technology beyond the two dimensional image and all that that entails. I mean I suppose that in offering more than an image within its definition, it then offers 3 dimensions - not in the quotidian way that 3D or stereography describes reality, but more in the Kinnect way. But of course Kinnect is a remediation too. I've seen 3D virtual objects that you can touch and been in environments where you stimulate events in telematically removed spaces which are mapped to the space you are in. Fundamentally it's the Hollo-deck from Star Trek - and yes, at the University of Bristol they have actually teleported a piece of matter from one place to another instantaneously.

Then there's 'metaphor' which always takes the eye off the ball. Basically 'HD' is not cadaverous, because it never lived. However I know what you mean - I like the fact that you're responding to it and naming it, describing it.

I'm probably already compromised because when I decided to get into the industry to fund myself as an artist rather than teach about what I didn't know (and some of my friends are now as high as it gets in education - and they've never once practiced and stopped making art a long time ago) I probably know too much technically to function as an artist... Having said that I'm about to shoot a new piece (so now I work in education like all the other old fucks but still use the money I earn to make art -:) Last December I showed 18 new works in HD at the P3 Gallery, before that I exhibited one of my HD installations at St. john the divine in new york for 5 months - it got a lot of good response and I think it got over the cadaverous nature you describe... That's sort of what I'm trying to take on".